Category Archives: How-To

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Fly Fishing Film Tour 2015

The 2015 F3T is right around the corner, and we at Fishwest can’t be more excited. The trailers are out and by the looks of them it will be another great event, here’s the trailer for Those Moments; a film by Kokkaffe Media’s Peter Christensen, supported by Orvis and Deneki Outdoors. The tour will be swinging through Salt Lake City February 19, 2015 at the Depot, tickets will be sold here at Fishwest starting January 2, 2015. If you have never made it to F3T before I highly suggest you do your best to make it to this years. It will be an all ages show, so bring the family!

 

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Orvis Tuesday Tip: The Ready Position

** This video is brought to us by the wonderful staff over at The Orvis Company. Mastering the “ready position” can make all the difference in the world when fishing the flats from a boat.  From my personal experience I can tell you that this was pretty difficult at first to conceptualize. However I had never come across this before but it can truly make all the difference between success and failure out on the flats. Enjoy!

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Diary of a Baby Tarpon Addict

I’ve been to a fair number of baby tarpon spots but I finally got a chance to spend three July days chasing them in Campeche, Mexico.  Here’s a sample…

5:35 AM:  The hotel van driver drops me off at the pier in total darkness.  I’m a little worried ‘cause the parking lot is completely empty.  Where is the guide’s vehicle?IMG_0018

5:43 AM:  Ah-ha!  The drone of an outboard answers my question and the guide pulls up in his panga.

5:55 AM: We’re driving through complete blackness at what seems like full throttle.  The only immediate illumination is the guide’s flashlight.  It is my second day fishing and the guide is taking me to the very edge of the usual fishing grounds.

6:09 AM:  The sun begins to peek over the horizon.  With a bit of light, the boat speeds up.  I’m quite relieved that we weren’t going as fast as possible through the dark.

6:50 AM:  The guide pulls up to where a creek pours into the mangrove shoreline.  The channel is about five feet wide.  With the first day jitters behind me, I get a fly tied on and my first cast off reasonably quickly.IMG_0027

6:54 AM:  Fish on!  A tarpon cartwheels to the left into the mangroves.   And it’s gone…

6:57 AM:  Fish on!  A tarpon cartwheels to the right into the mangroves.  And it’s gone…

7:01 AM:  Fish on!  This one  remains cooperatively in the middle of the creek and I land about a 3 pound snook.  I’m pumped!  It’s only the second snook I’ve ever caught.IMG_0046

8:21 AM:  I haven’t seen anything since the snook.  But my casting is dialed in.  I’m actually feeling rather smug.  I haven’t snagged a mangrove in at least half an hour.  I’m dropping my fly in every juicy little pocket that presents itself as we pole down the shoreline.

8:22 AM:  The guide calls out, “Tarpon!  By mangroves! 11 o’clock!”  I see a couple dark shapes in the clear water.   Naturally, my casting ability instantly implodes and the fly ends up in the mangroves about 4 feet above the tarpon. The tarpon simply melt away.

9:15 AM:  A small barracuda grabs my fly.  Luckily he doesn’t bite me off and I unceremoniously strip him in.  When he is ten feet from the boat a gang of three tarpon show up.  They are large for babies – about 20 pounds each – and look like they have mayhem on their minds.  At least as far as the barracuda is concerned…IMG_0050 2

9:20 AM:   The barracuda is unhooked and back in the water.  Somehow, the tarpon don’t notice as it darts away.   They are circling about 30 feet from the boat and they still look like a bunch of thugs.

9:30 AM:  Evidently, the tarpon are shrewd thugs.  They ignore two or three different flies and drift into the mangroves. IMG_0108

10:45 AM: The guide poles us by a large tree that has toppled into the water, extending well beyond the mangrove shoreline.  I crawl a Seaducer along the length of the tree.  Blow up!   A tarpon clears the water three or four times.  He is still hooked; I’m hopeful that this could be my first tarpon to the boat.

10:50 AM:  Yes! It makes it to the boat for a picture and a release.IMG_0045

11:45 AM:  After eating lunch further down the shoreline, we return to the fallen tree.  It’s a good call on the guide’s part because another tarpon inhales the Seaducer and comes to the boat.  But not quietly, of course – thrashing and churning all the way.

1:05 PM:  We’re on a large flat covered in turtle grass.  Every few minutes or so a tarpon comes within range.  It’s like this for about an hour and a half.  These tarpon are pretty cagey and I get mostly refusals.  Nevertheless, three or four end up leaping skward with my fly in their mouth.  But – sigh – all but one fall back down to the water with the fly indignantly tossed aside.  I have to admit I’m used to that.

2:35 PM:  We start the run back to Campeche.

4:00 PM:  I’m in the neighbourhood bar, enjoying a superb Margarita.  Life doesn’t get any better ‘cause I’ve got one more day of fishing left….

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Here’s a few notes about Campeche and the fishing…

Campeche is a great place to take a partner who doesn’t want to spend everyday in the boat.  It is an amazing city with stunning and historical architecture.  There are lots of comfortable hotels and good restaurants. IMG_0021

An 8 weight rod with a floating 9 weight line was perfect for Campeche’s baby tarpon.  I found a leader that was 11 or 12 feet long led to more grabs than the standard 9 footer.  Puglisi patterns, Seaducers, and Mayan Warriors a little better than 3 inches long worked well.   There was a lot of blind casting but a fair bit of sight fishing to both rolling and cruising tarpon.

The tarpon were generally between 5 and 10 pounds.  They were plentiful and grabby.  I never seemed to have to wait very long for my next shot.  Most baby tarpon locations seem to suffer a definite slow down during the heat of the day but the action in Campeche stayed reasonably consistent.  On an average day, I would get at least 10 or 15 strikes.  For the sake of brevity, I left out a few grabs in my diary above.

The diary also left out a couple noteworthy spots that were fished on another day…  Quite close to Campeche, there are some beautiful mangrove islands that seemed to hold rolling tarpon all day.  There are also hidden lagoons tucked into the mangrove shoreline where I literally watched schools of baby tarpon swim laps.  Although my partner never caught a fish, she fished those spots with me and had a great time just soaking up the scenery.

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Although he didn’t speak much English, the guide was great.  As well, he had a good panga with a casting platform.   My outfitter for the trip was Yucatan Fly Fishing Adventures; they also have operations at Isla del Sabalo and Tarpon Cay Lodge.

**Editors Note: Fishwest hosts a yearly trip down to Campeche Mexico with Yucatan Fly Fishing Adventures. Spots on our 2015 trip are still available however they are going fast. For further details please contact us at support@fishwest.com or visit the “Destination Travel” page of Fishwest HERE** -JC

 

 

 

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Catch Magazine Season 6 is Almost Here

Get ready for season 6! I am always blown away by the quality of videos Todd Moen and Catch Magazine are able to put together while dealing with varying weather conditions in remote places. It’s the combination of footage and complementary music that set great videos apart from the rest and  by the looks of this season’s trailer he has knocked it out of the park once again. This season they travel to Argentina, British Columbia, and Montana’s backcountry to name a few. Season 6 will be available for purchase after December 10th and the staff here at Fishwest are very excited to watch this video in it’s entirety. Hope you enjoy the trailer as much as we did!

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“Amping” your way to fish

Car camping is when you throw your gear into the car and hit the road.  Canoe camping is when you throw your gear into a canoe and hit the water.  How about when you throw your gear into a modern jetliner and hit the sky?  I’d call that air camping, or amping, for short.

IMG_1064I have to admit that I like to indulge in a comfy lodge every now and again.  Motels are also awfully convenient.  But camping has advantages.  It gets you right into the middle of some beautiful country, or maybe even right on the bank of a trout-filled river.  It practically eliminates lodging expenses and you can fish as early or as late as you want.

However, if you only have a week for a vacation, you probably don’t want to spend multiple days transporting your tent by car.  This is where amping shines.  Watch your supplies roll down the luggage conveyor belt and you won’t be looking at Internet images of fly fishing paradise that evening…  You’ll be actually be there instead.

Packing all your camping and fishing gear into airline-friendly packages is much less daunting that it seems.  Assuming you travel with a partner, it can be done if each person has a couple of large duffle bags.  Two checked bags per person is a fairly universal maximum for modern air travel.   Make sure they don’t exceed the airline’s size limits!  Backpacks also work but duffles accommodate bulky items with greater ease. Load two of the duffles with personal clothing and fishing stuff; let the others swallow the actual camping gear.

IMG_0656Besides clothing and personal items, here’s a list of what my girlfriend and I took the last time we did this:

  • Sleeping bags, full size pillows, and an inflatable air mattress with a foot pump.
  • An 8 X 8 nylon tent with a full fly and a ground sheet.
  • A single burner Coleman propane stove –minus the propane canister – and an electric lantern.
  • A large frying pan, a medium pot, a minimum of cooking utensils, and a small pail for carrying water.
  • A minimum of eating utensils and glasses or mugs.
  • Waders, wading boots, 2 fly rods and reels each, and one small chest pack with flies and terminal tackle.

I wouldn’t say that this is travelling light.  Notice the two full size pillows!  Although very compressible, a lot of people might do away with them. Some might also swap out the large tent for a lightweight backpacker’s model. Opting for a tiny backpacker’s stove is another way to save space.  (And maybe make room for a fully stocked vest instead of a little chest pack?) Some unlisted miscellaneous items – like a favorite travel mug – are nicely transported in a carry-on bag.   There are probably dozens of ways to compact this list.  Be sure to weigh each bag in advance to avoid surpassing weight restrictions.

Obviously, there are essential items – like food – not on the list.  To remedy this, pick up a rental car and go shopping as soon the plane lands.  Besides groceries, a cheap styrofoam cooler is a smart purchase.  Don’t forget to buy a propane canister for the stove.  Bear spray might also be a good idea, depending on your destination.  Whether bear spray or propane, airlines don’t like the idea of pressurized containers on board their planes…  And rightly so!  Empty boxes from the grocery store will make storing and organizing all the supplies inside the rental car much easier for the duration of the trip. The cooler, propane, and bear spray can often be given away before returning home.

IMG_0937We have managed to see – and fish! – some interesting parts of the continent on “amping” trips.  New Mexico, for example, has some amazing small stream fishing.  We camped on the banks of the Cimarron River, a tailwater that drains Eaglenest lake.  Most tailwaters are broad, flat rivers but the Cimarron is small, intimate, and delightfully varied.  It runs through both forest and meadow.  There are riffles, rocky runs, deep bends, and logjams.  And did I mention trout?  Both wild browns and stocked rainbows.

IMG_0950I’ve always believed that fishing quality is directly proportional to distance from an access point.  The Cimarron really challenged that idea…  One morning a chap fished the riffle right beside our campsite – something I had never even considered – and landed three wild browns on a hopper imitation.

On the same trip, we also visited the lower reaches of the Rio Hondo close to where this rocky little stream joins the Rio Grande at the bottom of the Rio Grande gorge.  Needless to say, it was an interesting descent in the car.  The stream chattered over rocks and ledges; most of its water was far too thin for trout. Nevertheless, some determined hiking led to a few good pools and very willing fish.

IMG_0935Another amping trip led us to Olympic National Park in Washington.  We pitched our tent amongst huge cedar’s and hanging moss, a stone’s throw from a gorgeous (but foggy!) beach.  It was like being on location for The Lord of the Rings.

To be honest, we didn’t have the patience to try for any Pacific Northwest summer steelhead.  Instead, we dropped in on the Queets River for sea run cutthroats.  Reading about sea run cuts told us they liked deep, snaggy, slow water.  Nevertheless, we couldn’t resist fishing the riffles and bouldered runs of the Queets.  The action was fantastic but the fish topped out at a disappointing 6 inches.  They were all rainbows without a cutthroat in the bunch.  I guess that bodes well for steelheaders in the next few years.

IMG_0888Eventually, we did find some deep water near fallen tree.  Voila!  We also found a few willing sea run cutthroat.  They were heavily spotted and covered with a silver sheen, almost devoid of color except the telltale throat slashes.

Throwing all your camping gear on a plane is an economically excellent way to explore some of those far-off waters you may be dreaming about…

DamNation

Patagonia Presents a Stoecker Ecological and Felt Soul Media Production: DamNation

Some folks see dams as a source of energy, a creator of recreation, or even the protector from seasonal floods. This can be true but during the early twentieth century there was an obsession to put a dam on any river or stream they felt could be beneficial to human progress and not considering the environmental damages that could be caused during and after the build. Thanks to the partnership of Patagonia and Felt Soul Media, they have produced this amazing video depicting the negative effects caused by dams and the impact they have on native fish populations. This video was an eye opener for everyone here at Fishwest, each and everyone of us learned something new from it and we encourage anyone who hasn’t seen it to view it.

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Mongolia: The Land Time Forgot

When folks talk about fishing in remote places for most the first thought that comes to mind  is the Alaskan bush or the back country of the North West. But there’s a place in Asia where human development and time have almost been forgotten. Most of you may have heard of Mongolia and the unique salmonid found in it’s waters. For those who haven’t heard of these creatures, they are the largest in the salmonid family, and fierce predators gorging on everything from bait fish to small mammals and birds. Here is a look at what it takes to have a chance at these incredible fish and what is being done to protect it’s habitat.

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Canadian High Mountain Lakes (Gorgeous views guaranteed! Epic fishing a possibility…)

I am not a dedicated fisher of alpine stillwaters.  I have never planned a fishing trip where these destinations were the main focus.  On the other hand, I am an enthusiastic hiker who is always on the lookout for spectacular scenery. Not surprisingly, some of the most scenic trails wind up on the shore of a high mountain lake. And I am dedicated enough to tote along my fly rod

I have to admit that the fishing on these expeditions has been largely hit and miss, with much more emphasis on the “miss” portion.  Many mountain lakes –  because of short growing seasons, limited forage, winterkill, and a lack of spawning habitat – do not support large trout populations.  Other mountain lakes have a decent trout population, but while I’m fishing, which is usually close to noon in the middle of summer, the trout are hunkered down and uninterested.

Nevertheless, if there is a lake at the end of the trail, I am going to toss a few casts.  Occasionally, it pays off, like this past summer…

My girlfriend Deb and I were in Waterton Lakes National Park in southern Alberta.  We decided to hike the Alderson-Carthew Lakes trail; the word from the Visitor Info Center was that the views were stunning and the fishing was off the charts.  We set off at 9 AM, carrying day packs loaded with rain jackets, lunch, and fishing gear.

1For the first six miles of trail, the only scenery was the forest pushing in on either side of us. It was an uphill trudge through swarms of horse flies.  When the sign for Alderson Lake came into view, we were ready to stop.  About the same time, a hiker from the opposite direction told us that the trout in Carthew Lake –3 more miles up the trail – were going crazy.  So we decided to keep going.

At this point the trail started to climb into a truly amazing alpine environment. We were soon looking down at Alderson Lake and up toward the peaks that hid Carthew Lake:

2In another hour, we were at Carthew Lake.  It was how you would hope all mountain lakes would look, especially after hiking 9 miles to get there.  Better yet, there were trout rising sporadically.  The sun was high in the sky but the lake was cold enough that the trout – and whatever they were eating – welcomed the warmth.  I threw a small Adams beyond the sun-drenched shallows to the darker, deeper water.  It was engulfed immediately.

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And so it went.  Every cast to the edge of the deep water brought an instant fish.  They were native, colorful cutthroats.  Most of them were eight  to ten inches long and a couple stretched out to twelve.  I was pleasantly surprised by the size; to be honest I was expecting hordes of stunted six inchers.

Casts that fell on the shallow, clear water were even more entertaining. Although a fly that landed on the shoreline shoal was never gobbled instantly, a cruising trout would notice it within a minute.  Then I would have the pleasure of watching the entire take.

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The trout were just as active subsurface. Deb was using a spinning rod and a tiny spoon.  At any given time, she had a fish on and two or three others chasing it.

The fishing certainly wasn’t challenging, but it sure was fun.  After about an hour, we started to make our way back down the trail.   The scenery was just as gorgeous on the way back.

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Post-Script….

A couple weeks later, we were further north in Alberta, on the road between Banff and Jasper National Parks.  We hiked into Helen Lake, a tiny tarn sitting amongst the usual array of peaks and meadows.  We left the fishing gear in the car, figuring that the lake was so tiny and so high that its fish population would be zero.  Wrong!

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From the shoreline we could see dozens of cutthroat finning through the shallows and rising with semi-regularity.  It would have been a sight-fishing dream.  The moral of the story:  Always hike with fishing gear!

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Great Days 13: Fly Fishing the Lost River

” A bad day of fishing beats a good day at work anytime” is what you commonly hear from others on the water. Although this statement is usually true it doesn’t really speak justice about the scenery and adventures we come across. Here’s a short film from our friends at Smith Optics, highlighting the fishing opportunities in the Sun Valley Region of Idaho and a little insight on what makes fly fishing so enjoyable.

 

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Loading Up The Float Tube

I used to head out on my float tube with a single outfit and one or two spare spools.  It was great in theory but I think I actually changed spools twice in about ten years.  It just seemed like way too much effort on a float tube in the middle of a lake.

These days I head out with two or three complete outfits instead. I realize that the minimalists are now groaning, but maybe the gear junkies are intrigued?  The rods get rigged on shore and whatever isn’t in my hand is lashed to the tube with a couple of Velcro ties.  Swapping one for another takes about a minute and I have no qualms about changing things up whenever the need arises.  The last trip I took for bluegills is a great example…

011It was a July evening and I launched my tube at about 6 PM.  I had a moderate action 3 weight in my hand; a clear intermediate line ran through the guides.  This is my “go to” rod for sunfish. I can’t keep piles of running line from tangling on my stripping apron, so most casts are short and the moderate action rod lends a good feel to this.   The intermediate line is effective because the sunfish are often quite shallow.

I also had a 2 weight with a floating line on board.  If the ‘gills started rising later in the evening, this stick could lay out small dries for them. My last rod was another 3 weight set up to pick off suspended fish in deep water.

That last statement might strike some people as being a bit of a contradiction.  Generally speaking, 3 weights and deep water aren’t mentioned in the same breath.  Neverthess, you can use a fast action 3 weight to deliver a home-made shooting head capable of dropping flies to depths of 10 or 12 feet. To make a shooting head like this, cut off the first 30 feet of a 5 weight sinking line (Type 3) and then attach it to 60 or 70 feet of 20 pound Amnesia with an Albright knot.  The Amnesia, naturally, is the running line and gets attached to your backing.

IMG_0494I found some fish after only about 10 minutes of prospecting.  They were in scattered submerged weeds between a couple docks.  The water was only about 4 feet deep and the intermediate line – with a scud pattern attached – worked like magic.   Jeepers, can a 9 or 10 inch bluegill pull!  They don’t run or jump, but they put an amazing bend in a light rod.  After about half a dozen tussles like that, I decided to try another spot.

I paddled up to a line of reeds growing right beside some thick, sunken cabbage.  The intermediate line had no Mojo in this location; it didn’t seem to be getting the fly deep enough into the weeds, so I pulled out the shooting head, and did my best imitation of a Bassmaster flipping a heavy jig to penetrate cover.

I had about ten feet of the sinking line outside the rod tip.   I paddled along the reeds, lobbing a micro-leech into reedy, weedy pockets.   I wouldn’t strip the fly in but simply dance it around with the rod tip before picking up and lobbing it into the next pocket.   The bluegill seemed to like this approach and several sucked in the leech.  Although usually reserved for deeper water, the shooting head proved it had a place in the shallow jungle.

IMG_0514Eventually, darkness crept in; I kept an eye open for rising fish, hoping to pull the 2 weight off the bench. Although this didn’t materialize, it was still an incredibly fun and satisfying evening….

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Here’s the outfits I carry when I’m not going after sunfish:

Perch LakeSmallmouth or largemouth bass…  I carry a Sage bass rod and a couple of 8 weights – one with a type 2 sinking line and one with a shooting head.   The bass rod, naturally, gets used for poppers around shallow cover.  The type 2 line helps me hit deeper weed beds and the shooting head – either a type 3 or type 6 – is handy for dredging.

Stillwater trout…  A 6 weight with a floating line lets me throw dries to rising fish or dangle chironomids under an indicator.  For the bulk of my stillwater trouting, I wield a  different 6 weight with an intermediate line.  Lastly, I carry the same shooting head system that I would for smallies and LMB’s.

IMG_0484Crappies… I use the same outfits that I do for bluegill.  However, I swap the 2 weight for a specialized 4 weight that delivers small poppers and gurlers.  More details about this rod are in my Pisciaphilia article called, “Canadian Fall Fishing:  Topwater Crappie Action.”

Pike…  I am often throwing BIG flies for pike.  The outfits I use are like the bass selection above but I trade a couple of 10 weights for the 8 weights.

One final note!  Be careful if you’re paddling your tube around with a couple rods hanging off the side and extending behind you.  Don’t back into anything!